With the success that Rocket League has seen over the last two years, it’s no surprise that the market for arcade sports titles has continued to grow.
Plenty of developers are getting into this arena — pun intended — including High Horse Entertainment with their new tennis/air hockey crossover title “Disc Jam”.
The game is a modern day version of the 90s arcade title “Windjammers”. The premise remains much the same as players face off with the aim of either throwing the disc into the goal or having it land on the ground on their opponent’s side of the field.
And though it sounds like a fun time, the question to ask is whether Disc Jam offers enough value to keep fans coming back for more time and time again.
First thing’s first, this game is pretty bare when it comes to options for players. There is no true single-player mode — other than free play training — as everything requires either local multiplayer or online.
There is a tutorial mode to help new players learn the ropes of the game, but some may be better off just jumping into a regular game due to the frustrating nature of the tutorial at times. But just because you jump into a game doesn’t mean it’ll be difficult to understand.
Disc Jam is the classic case of a game that’s easy to pick up yet difficult to master. To help, players can take part in the aforementioned free play training that allows you to simply perfect the controls.
Players either go online for some one-on-one action, or find a partner to play with in two-on-two matches. You can do either public matches or private online games with friends.
The matchmaking for online games leaves a lot to be desired. Now, once connected to a game — unless you’re in California and trying to connect to Asian servers, though those aren’t even that terrible — there really has been no issue with lag in about 80 games played since its beta. No, the big issue is connecting to games themselves.
Two-player games do connect quicker than four-player contests, but the length of time spent searching and connecting can turn quite a few people off from playing as often as one would expect. It’s tough to tell if it’s a server issue, which was addressed a bit via a post-launch patch, or if the player base is just too small right now. Either way, the waits do take the fun out of the game a bit.
If online isn’t your thing, there is split-screen couch co-op as well as the ability for LAN play for those with multiple computers and copies of the game on the same network.
From a visual standpoint, there really isn’t much to brag about. Still, the game looks pretty damn good.
The menu is easy to navigate, and games are easy to set up. The arena looks like a futuristic battlefield, though it does get pretty boring looking at the same field over and over and over again. Not to compare it to Rocket League too much, but that’s one aspect that they nailed right away — multiple fields/arenas at launch.
There is also a Prize Machine to help unlock cosmetic items to give your characters various looks.
The characters have a nice mix of realism and cartoon in their look, providing a fresh feel for gamers. All in all, there really isn’t anything wrong with how the game is presented. It just comes back to the feeling that there’s something missing.
Of course, a game is nothing without solid gameplay. And Disc Jam definitely has better than solid gameplay.
There are four characters to choose from — Gator, Haruka, Makenna, and Stanton — all with different abilities to their name. As stated, the point of the game is to throw the disc into the goal, or have in land on the ground on the opponent’s side of the net.
The first player — or team — to 50 points wins the set, and it’s a best two-out-of-three match. It’s really as simple as that.
What isn’t simple is mastering all the ways to throw the disc. The first thing to realize is the quicker you throw, the more power you will have behind your toss. Though, it’s not always about power.
There are finesse throws that can be throw to dodge opponents as well as simple lobs to catch your competition off guard. There are even special throws to really throw your opponents through a loop. It’s a play style that’s both fun and addicting which always bodes well for the ultimate goal of seeing people come back every day to play.
Unfortunately, there really isn’t anything available to reward players for success on the field. The Prize Machine is nice, but with no leaderboards or stat tracking of any kind there really is no way to see how you’ve improved over time. Want to know your overall win/loss record? Well, you better be keeping track of that yourself.
It’s quite disappointing to know that a feature that even offline games often have wasn’t included at launch in a multiplayer sports title.
Disc Jam is a nice base for something big in the future. It has a simple-to-grasp control scheme, fun and accessible gameplay, and even takes more strategy to succeed either solo or on a team than one would expect from a game like this.
Sadly, it often feels too bare to spend as much time in it as other options out there.
The poor matchmaking — again, it may just be due to the limited player base — takes a lot away from what could be the next big indie sports title.
High Horse has stated that new fields, characters, modes and features like leaderboards are coming in the future, but without them right now, the game just feels a bit unfinished.